These “Panto-animal” history articles share a discovery of amazing proto-Furry happenings, in an overlooked era of Pantomime theater in Victorian Britain. Stunning photos show why the topic is worth uncovering. From those scarce records, a handful of actor names stood out with wide publication in their time for “animal impersonation”. They were not necessarily playing specific “fursonas”, a difference from Furries today – but they earn fan author Phil Geusz’s general label, “paleo-furry.” Charles Lauri was mentioned in Part 1 – and Fred Conquest in Part 2.
Fred Patten reviews the Conquest biography, loaned by the LA public library.
The best Pantomime theater actors seemed highly diverse in their talents. That only included a small amount of animal costuming, although a few like Fred Conquest specialized in that. This biography was reviewed in hopes of picking out scarce Panto-animal details, which have been forgotten by time, because very little was ever printed about them.
This Amazon.co.uk review of the book earned a quote in Part 2:
Now that it has become respectable to admit enjoying popular entertainment, the story of the Conquest family deserves to be better known. They were one of those colourful theatrical dynasties who flourished from Victorian times until well into the twentieth century. Many of them were actors who, between them, took on everything from Shakespeare to pantomime; my favourite was the one who played the animals or “skin” roles.
Fred did find amazing costuming stories, even if most of it wasn’t of the animal kind. These shows must have been incredible spectacles, the “big budget movie” productions of their time. I’m very sad I couldn’t find any illustration for the giant floating demon head! Let Fred explain more. ( -Patch)
Conquest: The Story of a Theatre Family, by Frances Fleetwood; W. H. Allen, 1953; 282 pages.
(Fred:) The book includes many illustrations, both photographs of actors, and reproductions of 19th century engravings of fantastic stage plays of acrobatic actors in grotesque costumes cavorting about. The plays included many scenes of fairies and demons flying above the stage on wires, and there are many accounts of wires and ropes breaking and actors being seriously injured. Read the rest of this entry »